The HicAB cassette, a putative novel, RNA-targeting toxin-antitoxin system in archaea and bacteria

Kira S. Makarova, Nick V. Grishin, Eugene V. Koonin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Toxin-antitoxin systems (TAS) are abundant, diverse, horizontally mobile gene modules that encode powerful resistance mechanisms in prokaryotes. We use the comparative-genomic approach to predict a new TAS that consists of a two-gene cassette encoding uncharacterized HicA and HicB proteins. Numerous bacterial and archaeal genomes encode from one to eight HicAB modules which appear to be highly prone to horizontal gene transfer. The HicB protein (COG1598/COG4226) has a partially degraded RNAse H fold, whereas HicA (COG1724) contains a double-stranded RNA-binding domain. The stable combination of these two domains suggests a link to RNA metabolism, possibly, via an RNA interference-type mechanism. In most HicB proteins, the RNAse H-like domain is fused to a DNA-binding domain, either of the ribbon-helix-helix or of the helix-turn-helix class; in other TAS, proteins containing these DNA-binding domains function as antitoxins. Thus, the HicAB module is predicted to be a novel TAS whose mechanism involves RNA-binding and, possibly, cleavage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2581-2584
Number of pages4
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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